Intro to Video Formats: Part 1 – MiniDV

Amongst the video formats available today MiniDV has been around the longest. Initially introduced as a pro video format back in 1995, MiniDV would eventually grow into the most popular video format for both consumers and semi-professionals. Though MiniDV is becoming eclipsed in popularity by the solid state and hard drive camcorders, it is still a viable format for video recording.

The first and main advantage with MiniDV tapes is the fact that it is still the most uncompressed consumer video format on the market. A single 60-minute, standard definition, $9.99 MiniDV cassette can hold up to nearly 20 gigabytes of video information. A comparable flash memory camcorder can hold 80 minutes of video on a $90 4gb SD card. If you do large amounts of video recording MiniDV can also be surprisingly affordable.

The other main advantage is the ability to easily edit video from tape. Almost any computer with a firewire input has the ability to import and edit video from tape. With DVD format camcorders editing is a possibility but not recommended. It takes a lot of time and energy to edit from DVD. Flash memory or hard drive camcorders are easier to import and edit than DVD, but you do need to double check the camcorders compatability with your computer and it’s software.

Now onto the disadvantages of MiniDV tape. The most evident drawback is the fact that tape is slowly going the way of the dinosaur. Blank tapes will still be available for quite some time, though it may get difficult to find the camcorders themselves. Every generation camcorder manufacterers tend to discontinue a tape model and replace it with either a flash memory or hard drive model. I’ll give MiniDV another 3 years before they’re no longer available – and I believe I’m being pretty generous.

The other considerable drawback is the construction or build of the camcorders themselves. A well made camcorder will always be a well made camcorder but there’s something that all MiniDV camcorders have in common – the actual tape mechanism that inserts and ejects the tape is quite fragile. I’ve seen numerous faulty tape mechanisms over the years and it can be a real pain. Remember to treat the camcorder with care and I don’t think you’ll have a problem.

I can still fully recommend MiniDV has a viable medium for video. Since it has been around for quite some time there’s not a whole lot of innovation that can be done. It’s an almost-perfected format that can’t get a whole lot better – or a whole lot worse, for that matter. If you’re shopping for video on a budget MiniDV is a great way to go.

Check back next week for the following installment of our Intro to Video Formats segment – DVD.

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